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Rights watchdog probes allegations against late Seoul mayor

National Human Rights Commission of Korea holds a meeting. (Yonhap)
National Human Rights Commission of Korea holds a meeting. (Yonhap)

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea decided Thursday to investigate sexual harassment allegations against the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and the city government’s suspected abetting or connivance of his acts.

The standing committee of the commission unanimously voted to look into the case, two days after the purported victim asked them to investigate.

The commission’s investigations have no legal force, and judging from its past probes, will take some time before they reach any meaningful conclusion.

The watchdog will have to coordinate with the prosecution, the police and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family which are already investigating the same case.

The police plan to refer the case to the prosecution after closing it, as legally, the death of the accused means that no charges can be filed against him.

As the rights commission cannot force anything, it can only rely on involved parties’ voluntary statements and their supporting documents.

This means it will be difficult for them to verify whether Park sexually harassed the purported victim, who was then his secretary, unless all the relevant parties such as former and incumbent Seoul City officials fully cooperate.

In the case of a female prosecutor’s accusations against senior officials in 2018, the watchdog found additional cases of suspected sexual harassment, but could not verify its suspicions due to lack of cooperation from the other victims.

In July 2018, the watchdog decided to investigate suspicions that South Korea mistreated female employees of a North Korean restaurant who collectively entered the country, and came to a conclusion 14 months later.

As for the commission’s probe into how the nation’s sports community can systematically protect the basic rights of athletes, which began in April last year, they concluded in July that the sports community should do better in enforcing their existing rules.

By Kim So-hyun (